Tuesday, January 19, 2010

28 Days Project: Binge and Purge

I hit a small stumbling block with the box: for the past few days, I simply haven't been inspired to complete anything from it. At all. I feel good - lots of energy, good mood, not stressed - but I don't feel like revisiting projects that, in many cases, didn't hold my attention long enough to make me want to complete them to begin with. The fact is, some of the projects were started quite some time ago, and I am no longer the same person I was then. I haven't changed dramatically, but some things just don't float my boat the way they used to. Or I have no need for them now. Or my style has changed. So my impetus to complete these projects is gone.

Since I haven't posted in a few days, I've imposed a penalty for myself, (or, strangely, maybe I'm rewarding myself): I am ridding the box of some projects that are, obviously, not completed, and are now headed for greener pastures with another crafter because I don't really want to fix them up. Perhaps a hoarder will find some of this stuff useful (not that I'm enabling, but it's stuff I don't want here, so whatever. I can't be responsible for where it ends up once it hits Goodwill). I've weeded through the box and come up with the following projects that have hit the road and are now in the back of the van, ready and waiting for the next Goodwill dropoff:


Original Plan: Purses. I found the placemats in various places - Target, ReStore - for next to nothing and planned to make purses. Sew them up the sides, add cute handles of some sort, and there's a cute bag.

Why I haven't finished them: I hardly ever carry a purse. Of any kind. And certainly not a purse that needs to be carried by two handles, since my hands have usually been full (babies, groceries, car keys...I don't need something else to carry). I often lose purses, anyway. Plus, even if I DID need a purse...do I need six or seven of them?

New Plan: I kept two of the Madras plaid, the red one (Christmas) and the funky striped one on the end (looks very Pier 1-ish). I'll use them for - gasp! - placemats. They'll go in the linen closet. The rest will find a better home.

Crochet Square

Original Plan: There are many charities that collect 12' crochet squares, to sew into blankets for various groups who need extra comfort (abused women, people suffering through illness, etc.). I was going to contribute to one or two of them. When I realized that I don't crochet quickly enough to contribute to this project, I was going to make a pillow of my one square.

Why I haven't finished it: I hate the color of this yarn. It feels good, it's super-soft...but what's up with this color scheme? Why did I ever even buy that yarn? Plus, the white border is just fugly. I added it when I realized that my square was too small to fit the 12' requirement for the blanket project, and I needed to add more area. I had white yarn here. That's all.

New Plan: I'm just giving it to Goodwill (does Goodwill even accept stuff like this? I bet so. It looks like a washcloth). I don't want to finish it. I certainly don't want a finished pillow of this sort in my house.

Mary Engelbreit Peasant Dress

Original Plan: A peasant dress for Kate, from this awesome Mary Engelbreit fabric that I found, of all places, at Wal-Mart.

Why I haven't finished it: I have done a lot of sewing for Kate over the past few months. She has five peasant dresses in her closet right now, along with all of the other goodies I've found/made for her. She has plenty of clothes right now. Really. She does.

New Plan: I'm putting the fabric (and that cute button) away for now, to be reabsorbed into my stash. I really love that fabric. There's nothing saying I can't make the dress at some point down the road, when she could actually use a new dress. In the meantime, no need for the materials to sit in a Ziploc bag, taunting me, a constant reminder of another unfinished project.

Simply deciding NOT to do certain things and to actually get them out of the house feels really liberating. I don't mean to sound all Feng Shui about it, but I really feel like it's getting rid of some negative energy in the dining room. I don't want to spend time completing projects that I don't want or need right now, and to have them just sitting around, half done, is dragging me down. I'm going to go through the box again tomorrow. Trash, be gone!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Manic Monday

Nothing new today - I know I'm a couple of days behind on my schedule, but I'll make it up, I'm sure. I should have planned on EVERY Monday being an "I'm not posting anything new today" kind of day. But to make up for it, I'm posting several pictures of projects that did not come from The Box. Rather, these are some of the things I worked on while I let the projects in The Box gather dust (not really, the box has a lid) and grow mold (definitely not) and sit unloved (that one might be true). Let's hear it for the Procrastination Enablers!
Dress I made for Kate, so she'd have something to wear for the heralded Holiday Luncheon at school. It's the peasant style I love so much, and it's perfect with leggings and a turtleneck. I love this batik fabric, too. It's the first time I worked with it, and the colors are mesmerizing.
Beanbags, for Joseph's new (to him) Toss Across game, which came with no beanbags. These were fun to make, too, and I made some for my niece for Christmas. They're filled with rice and are VERY popular in our house.

Another dress for Kate, this one made from a shirt that was getting a little small for her, and two cut-up adult t-shirts. I love this one. She wears it a lot, and it's even a great summer vacation dress.

So I'm not a total slackass, as I have been DOING things. But now that I'm committed to finishing unfinished projects, I feel a real sense of resolution. Still, I'm itching for that "let's start a NEW project!" excitement again. I guess now's the real true test. Will I stick with the 28 Days Project? Definitely. But it's a challenge.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

28 Days Project, Day 7 and Day 8: Workspace skirt & valance

The story behind the project: We reorganized the dining room last summer. I usually use the dining room table as an actual sewing table, which means there's fairly little "work" area to lay out fabric, etc. I thought it would be nice to have some extra space, so I made a work table/side table (under the pretense that we may, someday, use the dining room to dine again) out of two filing cabinets and a slender wooden door, purchased at the ReStore store and painted white. I LOVE it. It provides the storage of the file cabinets and even some extra space between the cabinets. It was always my intention to make a skirt for it, to cover up everything and make it look cohesive, but then summer ran out, and work started again, and it just...never happened.

The materials: fabric, thread, furniture tacks.

The process: I cut a long piece of fabric into two lengths; I wanted an overlap in the middle, to make accessing the materials underneath easier. I basically just make two large rectangles of fabric with hemmed edges on all sides. Then I tacked it to the edge of the door/table top. I had enough fabric left over to make a simple valance to hang in the dining room, too. The rod and clips came from IKEA. It just requires a simple piece of fabric, no pockets for a curtain rod or anything, since it is literally just clipped to it. Simple! I love that IKEA mentality. Love it.

The outcome: I love the table skirt. It turned out exactly the way I had envisioned, and we really will be able to use that sideboard as a food-serving area, if that's ever required. I am less enamored with the valance, and I'll probably change that out. For some reason, the solid blue doesn't look good on the window. However, it is nice to have some sort of curtain there, since that side of the house gets all of the afternoon sun and can get really warm in the summer when I refuse to turn on the air conditioning. I'm thinking maybe a simple white.

The cost: I don't remember where I got the giant piece of fabric, but it must have been cheap or I wouldn't have bought it. The tacks were 99 cents, and the curtain rod and clips were under $10 at IKEA. Definitely a worthwhile project. The space is on its way to feeling complete, and I'm eager for that.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

28 Days Project, Day 6: Necessary Winter Coat Refashion

The story behind the project: I won't lie; this project was not a member of The Box, but it had to be done, so I'm counting it for this project because I'm pretty proud of myself for completing it so quickly.

Temperatures here have been frigid lately - 20 degrees when I woke up this morning - and Kate's winter coat, which we just bought in the fall, had a bum zipper that got caught every time she tried to zip it up. Given that Kate is an "I CAN DO IT MYSELF" kind of girl, and given that her school highly encourages kids to do things by themselves, this situation was challenging for all involved (plus, it was difficult for an adult to get that zipper up, which only added to the frustration). I had to get her a new one. Stores here stop selling winter jackets in December (I'm not kidding - they already have swimsuits and beach towels out), so we had few options (which did not bother me, really - I was not looking forward to paying $30+ for a jacket she'll only wear a few times). We stopped at Goodwill on our way home from school Thursday afternoon and found a perfect purple one for her. Great! And when we got in the car, Kate said, "I hope this one doesn't have the same zipper problem the other one had."

Dum, dah dum dum DUM!

I didn't even think to check the zipper while we were there. But sure enough, when we got it home and I tested the zipper, it didn't work. Part of the little plastic teeth were missing, and it could not be fixed (believe me, I tried). So I used...velcro!

The materials: jacket, velcro tape, thread.

The process: I cut off the existing zipper on both sides. I didn't pick out the seam, just cut it off as close to the teeth as I could. She won't wear this much longer this year, and it's not often that we need heavy winter coats here, so it doesn't have to hold up forever.

The outcome: Perfect! Now she can fasten her own jacket. It looks cute, too, and keeps her warm.

The cost: $2.50 for the jacket at Goodwill, plus the velcro tape and cotton thread I had here. Pretty good for a winter coat, I think.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Feeling Greedy

I want this cape from My Mama Made It. I love her stuff, and she takes great photos. I fully expect to see her on Project Runway soon!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

28 Days Project, Day 5: Erin's Beach & Beauty Bag

My niece loves putting on makeup even more than my daughter does...which is saying a lot. And since I don't have to clean it off of her walls, I'm going to send her a bunch of it for her birthday in April! I'm putting it all into a little bag, embellished by me with some flowers; I'm also going to include a pair of flip flops (also from The Box), on which I'm crocheting flowers. TWO items from The Box, going toward one gift. Thanks, Erin!

The story behind the project: Bag from the Dollar Spot at Target, two crocheted flowers purchased from Etsy before I knew how to crochet flowers...I always intended to put them together to make this, but I hadn't...until now.

The materials: Bag, flowers, button, thread.

The process: I just sewed the flowers on, using buttons for centers. That's it. Embarrassingly simple.

The outcome: I love that I have a head start on a specific birthday gift, and it will be perfect for her. Although there's no "after" picture posted here, it's done, I swear. The camera is all wonky, so I'll post a picture with the flip flops when I get those done.

The cost: $1 for the purse, about 40 cents each for the flowers, plus the cost of whatever I put into it.

I'll post the flip flops when they're finished!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

28 Days Project, Day 4: Baby, it's cold outside, but at least my cell phone is cozy

The story behind the project: Once upon a time, I had the idea to crochet wrist cuffs. I even improvised my own pattern. Unfortunately, this is one time I probably should have used acrylic yarn, not 100% cotton yarn. Cotton yarn, as I discovered, has no stretch, so it was impossible to fit over my hand onto my wrist. Then, obviously, once I realized it didn't fit, I lost enthusiasm for the project. But in looking at it, I realized my cell phone would fit perfectly in it.

The materials: Cotton yarn (hot green, my favorite color, and lavender), funky Wal-Mart button in my stash forever, and thread.

The process: I had to crochet the bottom of the "cuff" together, which I did with a simple single crochet. Then I made the loop closure with a chain stitch, sewed on the button, and voila! Now my cell phone is cozier than I am.

The outcome: I am not normally a fan of "cozies" for anything, but I like this. The color makes me happy, and it will be easier to find my cell phone, which up until how has bounced, unprotected, around my ginormous school bag while I searched for it.

The cost: Pennies.

Maybe with the ridiculously cold temperatures we've been having, my cell phone needs a cozy. Check another thing off of the list, too. I like it!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Day Off (plus, my Clean House, and why I'm glad I'm not on Hoarders)

I thought about pulling out a project I completed recently and passing it off as a project from The Box, since I'm not completing one today. I thought I could keep the continuity of the blog, not have to cash in one of my self-issued Get Out of Jail Free Cards, and resume business tomorrow. But then I thought, "Just keep it real, Michelle." (what I really thought, honestly, was, "Why would you lie about that? What's the point? Doesn't that dilute the whole project?"). So...no new project today. This is the first day back to school after Christmas break; it's 8:00 pm, and I am exhausted. I will be sound asleep by 10 pm, if not before. I thought this would be one of my days off from The 28 Days Project, even before I began it, because I knew I'd be tired and pressed for time. So instead of beating myself over not doing something new, I am giving myself a little pat on the back for recognizing ahead of time that I have limitations. Plus, it's January...nothing good can come from not getting enough sleep, running down your body, and being inside with germy germs all day long.

I did, however, go through The Box and look through things. I have plenty of projects in there that could go beyond January and well into February, if I want to. I sorted out some stuff, repurposed some supplies that I knew I would never make into anything, and pared down. I also came up with a list of "second tier" projects, things I can tackle if I have a burst of energy (and a bunch of time). We'll see where that goes. It was fun to take a look at the work ahead of me.

Part of this project is the result, I think, of being hooked on the show Clean House. My house is nothing - NOTHING - like the ones on there, but since watching it I've been very motivated to clean things out, get rid of clutter, and enjoy empty space. Thus, getting rid of The Box. And just when I thought the families profiled on Clean House were living in clutter....last night when we couldn't sleep, Kate and I watched part of an episode of Hoarders on A&E. Holy crap. I mean...wow. Just, wow. Some of those people make the Clean House people look like neat freaks. One of the women last night had so much stuff, she had a narrow pathway she had created to get to the small cubby/clearing on the floor she had created to sleep. It was amazing and horrifying. That show does what I think is missing on Clean House, which is offer counseling (heavy-duty, if needed) and long-term help. It made me feel better about my life.

That being said, I'm off to sleep in my bed. Which is not piled with crap. And I don't have to forge a path to find it, either. What a bonus.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

28 Days Project, Day 3 (Part II): Pinup Girl Hair Ties

The story behind the project: Two simple rectangles of fabric, sitting in The Box. I know I had intended to make hair elastics from them, sort of like the scarves that pinup beach girls used to wear in the 1950s. I don't know what derailed my plans, but there sat the fabric, in The Box, for about two years. I especially love the pink and blue flowered one, which is called Groovy Daisy and is by Michael Miller.

The materials: cotton fabric, thread, hair elastics

The process: All these needed were one 3-inch seam each, up the short side. Then I had to tie them to the hair elastic with a simple knot. Makes me wonder why I didn't get to them sooner. Maybe I cut my hair and didn't need them, so I wasn't motivated to finish them.

The outcome: These will be perfect to stash as last-minute gifts for someone. I like them, but I don't know if my hair is right for them now.

The cost: Pennies, literally. I don't even remember how much I paid for the fabric, but so little of it is used in these that the cost must be minimal.

This was a great Sunday afternoon project, too - big payoff for relatively little work. I am feeling a real sense of accomplishment from the 28 Days Project so far. It has kept me motivated to empty that box. Every morning when I wake up, I think about what I'm going to tackle that day. It feels really good to wrap up projects that have just been hanging around. And it will feel even better when, at the end of the month, I'll have a stash of handmade stuff waiting to be given as gifts or sold in my Etsy store.

28 Days Project, Day 3: More Stain Coverage

My favorite thrift store had a 50% off sale on New Year's Day. I wish I could have bought out the entire place - who knows when I might need a set of gilded drapes, someday? - but then I would have ended up like the families on Clean House, with clutter and crap everywhere. Anyhoo, I did well and bought some really nice stuff for everyone in the family. I got polo shirts for Kevin for about $1 each, a pair of Carolina warm-up pants that snap up the sides for Joseph, and I even bought myself a sundress from The White House. Of course, Kate made out the best, because she's so EASY to buy for. Everywhere I go, there is a ton of cute stuff in her size; plus I love making things for her, so her closet is bulging.

Even so, I could not pass up a Land's End dress for 50 cents. Fifty cents, I say! When I got it home, I noticed two faint stains on the front, which were easily covered by the flowers I crocheted on the spot, using a pattern from Tip Top Applesauce (her patterns are adorable and turn out every single time. Can't beat that. I own several of them).

The story behind the project: Thrift-store dress, too cute to pass up, has a couple of stains on it. We can fix that!

The materials: 100% cotton Land's End dress, 100% cotton Sugar 'n Cream yarn, button, thread.

The process: Crocheted three flowers, using the pattern from Tip Top Applesauce (one three-layer flower for the bottom, two single small ones for the top).

The outcome: Another winner. The colors are perfect, and it's a perfect dress to pair with leggings and an undershirt for cold days like today. The three-layer flower on the bottom probably needs to be sewn down a little more to prevent it from drooping, but that's easy to do.

The cost: 50 cents for the dress, leftover yarn.

I want to get in a couple of smaller projects today, if time permits. We're all getting ready for the Return to School tomorrow, so we'll see how we do with the time. Plus, Kate wants me to teach her how to mend. Power to the women!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

28 Days Project, Day 2: Simple Mending

Not everything in The Box is a big project. Case in point, the weird little kids' meal stuffed toy guy here:

The story behind the project: Joseph asked me to fix this hole a couple days ago. This little guy is probably the newest addition to The Box, as he's only been there that long.

The materials: You're looking at it.

The process: Mend a hole in the back leg. This, ironically, is the only kind of sewing I ever remember my gramma doing. In fact, I don't have any memories of her actually holding a needle and thread. But I do know that she didn't have a sewing machine, so she didn't make clothes or quilt or anything at all. Mending must have been the extent of it. And I don't remember ever wearing clothes with holes in them or with missing buttons, so she must have done that.

The outcome: This is about as simple as it gets. I'm sure the little guy will end up buried in Joseph's room, under all of the other stuff that accumulates in there. But at least I got it DONE, and I even received a "thank you" from Joseph, so win-win.

The cost: It was a prize in the Burger King kids' meal. So besides the twinge of Mom Guilt I suffered as the result of giving my kids sodium and fat for dinner (and I don't even remember when we went there - maybe Kevin took them one day?), it was free.

28 Days Project, Bonus Project: Kindergarten Goth

I say "bonus" because, technically, this shirt was not already in The Bin. As I was folding laundry this morning, I looked at everything with a critical eye. I threw out all of Joseph's cruddy socks (we bought new ones yesterday) and saw this shirt, which belongs to Kate:

(no, that shot was not taken on a gorgeous stone patio in Tuscany; rather, it was taken on our NEW kitchen floor, which is vinyl tile. Fooled ya, didn't I?)

I transformed it into this:

The story behind the project: I got the shirt at Target last year sometime for about $2. It's great - Champion, I think - but it had two small but visible stains in the front. When I told Kate she could wear it as an undershirt this morning, she said, "Why don't we just cover up the stains with some flowers or something?" That's my girl.

The materials: I used transfer-mations heat transfers, which I got at Michael's on clearance sometime last year. I love these things. They're not plasticky, like most iron-on transfers. They feel like regular paper, and I think the ink just literally transfers from the paper to the fabric when it's ironed. You can't feel it at all. I'm definitely going to look for more of these things.

The process: Plug in the iron. Cut out the transfer. Iron it on. That's it.

The outcome: Exactly what it needed! The whole project took about 5 minutes, from "Hey, why don't we do this?" to "Hey, look! It's done!" She can wear the shirt by itself now, or she can wear it as an undershirt.

The cost: Shirt: $2. Transfers: $2 for a whole sheet, and I just used the big one in the center. There are two or three dozen smaller ones left for small stains on other stuff I see.

28 Days Project, Day 1: Gap Shirt Transformed into Skirt

I actually finished this project last night, but by the time I was done it was too dark to take pictures outside in natural light, which always looks better. So it counts as Day #1's project.

I took this shirt:

Which was at the top of my project box.

I made it into this:

The story behind the project: I bought this shirt at a yard sale up the street last summer or fall. My original intention was to make a dress or a skirt for Kate from it, but I really love the fabric, and Kate has lots of clothes in her closet, most made by me. I sew a lot for other people and decided that it was time for me to make something for myself. So much for the selflessness that usually accompanies New Year's Resolutions.

The materials: The shirt is a heavy-duty plaid from The Gap. It goes without saying that I don't shop at The Gap, because I'm not into paying $35+ for a shirt like this. Still, I do like it, and I think I paid $1 for it at the yard sale. It still had dry cleaning tags on it and everything, and it was in great shape.

The process: I cut off the top of the shirt, made a simple casing, and inserted my 3/4" elastic in the small gap I left. I sewed up the whole thing and added my bird applique on the bottom (that bird is showing up on more and more of my projects lately - Kevin said it's like my trademark, but I just really like the way it looks). I even used one of those little "extra" buttons, sewn to the inside of the shirt to replace lost buttons, as the bird's eye, so I really incorporated part of the shirt I didn't even intend to (plus, bonus, his eye matches the other buttons on the skirt). I originally wanted to make belt loops and use the sleeves, sewn together, as a sort of tie belt, but I tried it and the sleeves were too short for something like that. Maybe a larger shirt would work better (this was a large), or maybe if I cut them closer to the seam it would look better. So I left off the loops and the belt.

The outcome: I love it! It is shorter than I originally wanted, but I think it's fine. And I love the way it looks with black tights and boots. It's pretty lightweight for a skirt, so I probably won't be wearing it much until it warms up, but this is definitely a keeper.

Friday, January 1, 2010

The 28 Days Project

There was an article in the paper yesterday about New Year's Resolutions. About how New Year's Day is sort of an artificial construct, and how people put too much pressure and stress on themselves to change things on THAT day, when there's nothing saying that they can't choose a random day in March to do exactly the same thing. On one hand, I agree with that; people stress out about it and seem less likely to carry out their plans when there's so much at stake. On the other hand, it just feeds into the rationalization I have for putting off until tomorrow (or next week, or six months from now) what I intend to do today. So I had in my mind that January 1st would be THE DAY to start my new endeavors, and after I read that article, for a split second, I thought, "Well, maybe I can wait..."

But NO! That would be continuing the very same behaviors that have been dragging me into a hole for the past few months. So today I begin THE 28 DAYS PROJECT.

Nothing big and fancy, really. In a nutshell, the plan is this: I have a Rubbermaid tub of half-finished craft and sewing projects in the dining room. It looks like this:

The box contains cut-out patterns, fabric that I've been meaning to turn into something specific, materials to make projects I've had in my head, things that just need to be mended...basically, all sorts of projects in all stages of being done and undone. Many are even neatly encased in Ziploc freezer bags, with all of the little parts stored together, to make me feel more organized about the entire mess. Sometimes I start something and hit a rough patch or don't understand the directions for it or just lose enthusiasm for it, and it ends up in this box. I should call it the Good Intentions box, because I really DO mean to finish everything in it. Well, this is the month. By the end of the month, the box will be empty. Or nearly empty. And I will post a completed project every day for 28 days. I will have 28 completed projects (maybe even a head start on some gifts for occasions throughout the year), a clean conscience, and a bunch of stuff to keep me busy in the dark, cold month of January. Plus, a little more room in the dining room. Win-win.

Why 28 days? I understand that January really has 31 days. But I figure that by giving myself three days of leeway, I'm less likely to get discouraged and quit the project entirely. There's bound to be at least one day in the month when I don't feel like doing anything. Or some project in there that takes more than one day to complete. I don't want to miss a day and have an excuse to throw up my hands and just say, "OK, I've failed, I'm done." Plus, 28 Days just sounds cool. Like 500 Days of Summer. It's a specific time frame. There are boundaries. There are limits. I like that, and it makes me feel like there are rules, which always makes me feel better. And, speaking of movie titles (which I was), 28 Days is a movie, too. It all fits together.

And I'm not even behind. I did complete a project today, but it was dark before I finished and I couldn't take it outside to get a good after photo in natural light, so I'll post it tomorrow, instead. So I'm 1 for 1. That's a good feeling on New Year's Day, artificial holiday or not.